Friday, December 23, 2005

A Ghost Story for Christmas

They told me that buildings have a memory and I laughed. If that was the case, then surely the rubble tramped by countless generations of feet would grab me by the ankles and shake me.

It was after the fire that it struck me: the bare outlines of a charcoal skeleton smouldering; window frames warped, a scent of carbonised damp permeating the drizzle. The workmen had already started. There is something obscene about gaping window frames: the glass that they held shielded what was held within, observed the proper proprieties.

The upper storey had collapsed. Most of the ground floor was intact, the drawing room and public bar eerily intact. In a wasteland of charred timber the oak bar and a line of malt whiskies against a mirrored background remained much as they had been. It was wonderful. The snow drifted through the denuded rafters and fell among the candles as we imbibed; commiserating and consoling ourselves.

Room number 11 didn’t occur to me: the top storey had collapsed. The rubble lying at my feet was just so much detritus, rubble to be scooped by a digger and used as infill. The economics were straightforward; a physical loss was an immense financial gain. These old buildings cost a lot to insure, and I knew that the insurance company would offer me a wad of cash rather than incur the costs of rebuilding.

Willie told me that he’d seen her. Face down in his whisky glass he had mumbled and gesticulated, pointing into the middle distance. He was a drunken fool, a ‘Tam o Shanter’ who divined more in his glass than he did in his bank account. Everyone had laughed, mocking his credulity and ignorance: he saw vapours and apparitions where the rest of us saw road signs. We laughed, but Isobel demurred. She turned and said: “They may laugh Willie, but I know exactly what you saw”.

I dreamt it vividly: a girl falling headlong from a window, her nightdress flailing, and the crunch of bone on gravel. I didn’t see her fall, but I dream her dreams every day.

14 comments:

Sniffy said...

Gawsh...

I liked that, excellent writing.

Is it true or what?

garfer said...

Elements of truth.

It burned. Nobody died. Willie was scared shitless.

garfer said...

I think I will review this post sober.

suburban wonder said...

Wonderful story! Can you do a sequel?

pissoff said...

How come the drunk is always called Willie? That said, I have a ghost in my house. Then again, she hasn't been around in a while since the telephone incident.

garfer said...

The 'telephone incident'?

Are you a ghostbuster?

pissoff said...

Merry Christmas Garfer. Hope you're having a great day.

garfer said...

Maltish and rather excellent, all things considered.

Hope yours was likewise (peach cider and red wine combined).

Sniffy said...

Merry Christmas, Garfer. Hope yours has been a good one.

All the best to you and yours,

T

S.I.D. said...

Write a book garfer.

Scare us all shitless. Need it after todays grub!

Kyahgirl said...

ooohhh, good one!

pissoff said...

Okay Garf... it's time for another post. Get on with it. I think I'm the only one around at the moment, everyone else is AWOL.

MHN for short said...

I love the last two lines. I think that you could have a splendid ghost story. Do you have a "back story" for this one???

Faltanus said...

very creepy. very nice. i'm curious to know more.